HTC Incredible S review

Android Froyo smartphone with HTC Sense

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For

  • Screen
  • Orientation-correct buttons
  • Sense UI

Against

  • Finger-mark susceptible rubber coating
  • No dual core processor

The HTC Incredible has been available in the US for a while, however it successor has only just landed here as ‘Incredible S’ part of HTC’s strong MWC line-up.

First impressions of the HTC Incredible S are dominated by three things - the pretentious name, and immense luxe screen, and the ‘industrial’ battery cover.

First up, that screen. It impresses - bright, sharp and responsive. In fact so responsive that users used to the last generation of HTC phones will find themselves selecting instead of scrolling with a fingerswipe for a while. It’s not AMOLED, granted, but S-LCD does a fine job. It’s also a handy compromise between the Desire and the enormous Desire HD at 4-inches

Vital statistics of (120mm x 64mm x 11.7mm) and 135.5 grams add up to a real-world sense of heft without undue weight, and a comfortable case size in the hand. The design will polarise many buyers – like the Motorola Milestone/Droid, it’s pretty uncompromising. The rear cover has a pronounced rebate around the edge, which aids grip, but does look a little ungainly. It also shows sticky finger marks rather too readily to be truly ‘Incredible’.

Neat touches include the positioning of the notification LED behind the oversized speaker grille, and the rather nice backlit navigation softkeys (more on these later).

Pricing is set at around the upper-midrange, making this spec among the best available for the cash. Carphone Warehouse offer the HTC Incredible S from £25 with contract, while SIM-free we’re talking a touch under £500, which will drop fast as the launch date recedes, much like is expected of the Nokia Lumia 800.

HTC Incredible S spec

Under the hood the Incredible S has undergone a RAM upgrade, from 512MB up to 768MB, while the processor is the 1GHz Snapdragon chip so favoured by HTC. This brings it up to exactly the same chip spec as the new Desire S, and reveals the main weak spot of the phone – a 1 Ghz processor. It snaps and crackles along now, but will it still compare with the host of dual-core competitors such as the Motorola Atrix and Samsung Galaxy 2 in a few months time?

Well, the good news is that in the meantime, the processor is perfectly capable. Multi-tasking as many resource-hogging apps as possible makes little difference to the speed with which you can flip back Home and fire up something else. There’s the occasional pause, but nothing like the Android phones of a year ago.

HTC Incredible S Android 2.3 Froyo

T3’s test model was running on updated Android 2.2 FroYo (2.2.1 for the trainspotters out there), and HTC promises Android 2.4 Gingerbread soon. HTC’s delay is explained in part by the fact that Gingerbread has already seen a full version bugfix update from 2.3 to 2.4.

The most recent iteration of HTC Sense provides a familiar interface – it’s slick, and with a chunk of new RAM, very lightfooted. The usual Sense touches abound, and add up to a compelling package. It’s easy to use, fast and effective. Familiar widgets update seamlessly, and as a poster-child for Android this overlay really delivers.

HTC Incredible S Battery

The real good news continues here – the battery life is good. After a day of constant wifi connection and full system sync (FB, Twitter, two email accounts, Spotify playlists) and YouTube testing for more than an hour, and the battery was still showing just over 70%. Try that with a previous generation HTC Desire, or a more recent Desire HD. The battery itself is slightly uprated, to a spacious 1450 mAh, but this isn’t enough to explain the difference. The larger Super LCD screen - supposedly very battery-friendly – obviously plays a part here, but HTC have certainly been busy saving power somewhere, and it really shows. You’ll get a full day out of the HTC Incredible S with ease, and to spare.

HTC Incredible S Screen

At 4-inches, the screen on the Incredible S packs in a respectable 800x480 resolution - standard fare for this generation of smartphones. HTC call the technology used in their latest batch of phones "Super LCD" technology, which is kinder on battery life than the traditional LCD displays of yesteryear. However, having used both up close, we can say that in terms of colour and contrast, Super LCD is no match for AMOLED, looking paler and more washed out than the tech now featuring exclusively on Samsung handsets like the Galaxy S2.

Included here have to be the new-style 4 softkeys, on a separate backlit strip at the bottom of the screen, a la Samsung Galaxy. A sweet little extra is the way that they flip orientation between portrait and landscape as you turn the handset – very cute.

This latter function is most appreciated playing video, which is one of the key selling points of the HTC Incredible S. The usual Android YouTube app suddenly makes sense with the larger screen, and watching longer chunks of video is relatively easy on the eyes.

HTC Incredible S Camera

An 8MP monster with dual-LED flash dominates the back of the HTC Incredible S, and also promises HD video at 720p. Images are a mixed bag, as with any handset camera. Auto-focus is generally reliable, face auto-detection actually works, and shutter response times are excellent. However, low-light is always a killer for phone cameras – the twin LEDs flood closer objects without having the lumens to light distant items. Fiddling with settings will yield pretty sound results though, and the image quality is good. Settings are actually accessible too – soft-switches for still-to-video and flash lurk on screen, making tabbing between them super-fast.

HTC Incredible S verdict

The HTC Incredible S is a great phone. Marmite styling aside, it has perhaps the ideal screen size possible in a phone, and nice UI touches abound – its’ HTC at its best. Buttery smooth and predictable, it really makes Android look like a thing of beauty – and that’s no small achievement. The form factor is big enough to make video a pleasure, but not so large that it’s a Dell Streak.

The battery life is among the best we’ve seen on a real smartphone, the camera is as good if not better than most other phone cameras out there, and the price is right. On the downside, that processor is going to date fast, and you’re going to have to explain to your iPhone-touting mates that your phone is called the ‘Incredible’ – can you live with that? It’s certainly the best Android phone to date, but with the Samsung Galaxy S2 and HTC Desire S coming soon, it could quickly be usurped.


Tempted by the HTC Incredible S? Watch our video with the Android-toting smartphone below for more details.

For more HTC videos and all the latest tech videos, head to the T3 Video Channel

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